7.0025 Rs: Jawbones (2/75)

Wed, 26 May 1993 14:03:59 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0025. Wednesday, 26 May 1993.

(1) Date: Fri, 21 May 93 15:44:37 -0400 (62 lines)
From: dahanson@COLBY.EDU (David A. Hanson)
Subject: Jawbone in Judges

(2) Date: 21 May 93 16:01:06 EDT (13 lines)
From: "David A. Hoekema" <DHOEKEMA@legacy.Calvin.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.0020 Jawbone Query

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 21 May 93 15:44:37 -0400
From: dahanson@COLBY.EDU (David A. Hanson)
Subject: Jawbone in Judges

>From a colleague, Tom Longstaff, who is not on the Humanist list:

Lehi probably comes from the root lamed, het, he meaning "smoothness" but
this is not certain. Lehi means "jaw" or "cheek". I've not seen anything
suggesting another meaning for lehi (which is no firm assurance that no one
has written such) and it is certainly used to mean "jaw" or "cheek" in
other contexts in the Bible. The incident (Sampson slaying the thousands)
is used to explain the origin of the name Ramat Lehi (The "heights of
Lehi") since in Hebrew all names have meaning and often some such story
explains how the place got its name. The section abounds in puns,
especially verse 16 where the word for "donkey" and "heap" is the same
word. Most translations are unable to render the clear pun in Hebrew and
the translation above misses it especially badly.

I would recommend, for starters, that Ms. Higley have a look at Robert G.
Boling's commentary on Judges in the Anchor Bible Commentary Series
(available in virtually every library - from Doubleday, 1975). She could
then move to other commentaries. The verse is not a difficult one although
it is hard for a reader to see all of the puns without a knowledge of
Hebrew. A better rendering would be something like:

With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of an ass I have killed a thousand men.

recognizing that the word for "ass" and "heap" is the same word.

As for the story being "weird," this is the same Sampson who kills
a lion with his bare hands and subsequently finds wonderful honey in the
carcass. This is the same Sampson that catches 300 foxes and ties their
tails together with burning torches in between to burn up all the
Philistine grain. Is the account of slaying a thousand men with the
jawbone of an ass any more incredible than this other legendary material?

Does this help?


I forgot to include in my previous message a note that the root
het, mem, resh (from which we get the word for "donkey" or "he-ass" and the
word "heap" (here "a heap, two heaps") has many meanings. It can mean "to
ferment" or "to foam up" and it can mean "to be red." The obvious
allusions to violence and bloodshed would not have been lost on the ancient
readers. There are far more puns here than your questioner imagined. The
pun, after all, in classical Hebrew is seldom a form of humor (never the
lowest form) and is much more frequently a vehicle of knowledge. It is
like when I use the word "spring" you want to know whether I mean a season
of year, a source of cool water, a resilient coil of metal, or the action
of Snoopy leaping like a fierce jungle animal out of his tree. The ancient
Semite would have looked with wonder at the meaning of the word "spring"
which could simultaneously express so much.

David A. Hanson dahanson@colby.edu
Assoc. Dir. for Academic Computing voice/voicemail: 207-872-3291
Colby College fax: 207-872-3555
Waterville ME 04901 office: Lovejoy 105

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------27----
Date: 21 May 93 16:01:06 EDT
From: "David A. Hoekema" <DHOEKEMA@legacy.Calvin.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.0020 Jawbone Query

I have nothing helpful to offer on whether a jawbone was indeed Samson's
weapon. But the query brings to mind the story of a speaker subjected to a
tedious and insulting introduction who then begins his speech, "I come
before you as a Philistine, having been slain by the jawbone of an ass."

|| David Hoekema, Academic Dean, Calvin College (Grand Rapids MI 49546) ||
|| tel. 616 957-6442 || fax 616 957-8551 || <dhoekema@calvin.edu> ||